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38                               THE GAY GENIUS

should I, at this dignified old age, submit myself to the disgrace of
being judged by official examiners and become a laughing-stock of
others? ... I have already submitted my works to Ouyang Shiu. If
he considers them good, why should there be further examinations ? If
he cannot believe the best that I have written, how can he rely upon
the tests of a day?" In another letter, to a high official, Mei, he said:
"I have never been able in my life to conform to the standards of
the judges, and that is why I have not succeeded to this day. ... I
remember how when I was young and preparing to go into the
examination hall, I got up at midnight, packed up my rice and cakes,
and stood at dawn before the Eastern Palace Gate. Then we filed in
together and sidled up to our respective seats and cowered over our
desks. Every time I think about that scene, my heart shudders. . . ."

By June of the following year, 1059, he received another order from
the government, a repetition of the first. There was no mention of any
special exemption from examinations; but nothing else would satisfy
him. The government leaders should believe in him—t^ke it or leave
it. He was not going to be quizzed like a schoolboy. So a third time
he declined. He was already about fifty, he wrote to say. What could
he do at this stage for the country? A scholar, after all, wants to go into
the government only to do something for the country, or else he should
live as a poor humble scholar. If he should decide to go into the
government now, he would neither gain an opportunity of serving the
country nor enjoy the distinction of being a great recluse. But, he con-
cluded, it was summer already, and his sons' mourning period would
be over by the next month; he would go with them to the capital again.
He hoped to see the officials then and talk over the situation. The tone
of the whole letter suggests that he really did not mind going into the
government even at the age of fifty, provided these influential people
arranged that his papers would not be graded by the examiners like
those of school children.

In fact, Su senior was prepared to leave his Szechuen home for ever,
now that his wife was dead. It was clear that he belonged at the capital.
His two sons had obtained official degrees and the next step was, there-
fore, to see what openings there would be in the way of government
positions for them, if not for himself. Hardly two months had passed
after the regular mourning period when the father and his sons set
out once more for the capital, this time with the young wives. Proper
preparations had been made for the spirit of the deceased mother. Su
Shun had had images of six bodhisattvas made and placed in two
carved and gilt wooden niches, to be set up at the Hall of Buddha
Julai at the Paradise Temple. These six bodhisattvas were: the Goddess
oŁ Mercy; the God of Wisdom; the Ruler of the Skies; the Ruler of the
Earth; a saint specially in charge of pacifying souls who were victims